by Susan Lee
Released on September 20th, 2022
Published by Inkyard Press
Young Adult Fiction—Contemporary, Romance
Hannah Cho had the next year all planned out—the perfect summer with her boyfriend, Nate, and then a fun senior year with their friends.
But then Nate does what everyone else in Hannah’s life seems to do—he leaves her, claiming they have nothing in common. He and all her friends are newly obsessed with K-pop and K-dramas, and Hannah is not. After years of trying to embrace the American part and shunning the Korean side of her Korean American identity to fit in, Hannah finds that’s exactly what now has her on the outs.
But someone who does know K-dramas—so well that he’s actually starring in one—is Jacob Kim, Hannah’s former best friend, whom she hasn’t seen in years. He’s desperate for a break from the fame, so a family trip back to San Diego might be just what he needs… that is, if he and Hannah can figure out what went wrong when they last parted and navigate the new feelings developing between them.
Her ex-boyfriend wants her back. Her former best friend is in town. When did Hannah’s life become a K-drama?
Trigger/Content Warning(s): Sexual Content, Bullying, Fatphobia, Mention of Cancer, Racism, Toxic Relationship
Disclaimer: I was provided a physical galley by the publisher in return for my honest review. This does not affect my opinion.
Seoulmates is a fun, estranged childhood friends-to-lovers romance that tugs on all the right heartstrings and presses the reader to read into the author’s message.
Susan Lee intricately crafted her characters to be unique.
Hannah, in some portions, was a brat. But at the sum of it, she was a teen girl living in a society that had spent so long telling her to be ashamed of her heritage and identity, only to suddenly throw her headfirst into its evolution of “accepting” Korean culture. I really liked Hannah’s character. In some aspects, I could relate to her; and in others, I sympathized and felt for her. Hannah struggled a lot in coming to terms with the shifting of society’s obsession with Korean culture and stars. Her character development throughout the story felt complete, and it made her appear as a real teenager would think, feel, react, etc.
When it came to Jacob, I could not help but take a deep breath through his chapters. Jacob had to take on a hard role as the pants of the family before he was truly done living his childhood. Lee perfectly captured his struggles, his emotions that were being smothered in an attempt to “be strong” for his mother and sister. I found myself wanting to reach through the pages and shake his shoulders and tell him to “wake up” while reading, and I think that is a great example of the true craftmanship Lee performed in this book.
Dialing into the writing style, I was completely enamored. Lee made it difficult to put this book down, at any point in reading, and I thoroughly liked having that experience. Lee’s writing style is not flowery or poetic, but it is eye-opening, addictive and deep in the message. At the beginning of the physical galley, there was an author’s note speaking about her own experience of growing up Korean-American, and in a lot of ways, she brought that personal experience into the fictional story. Having that there really added to Seoulmates, and I wish we saw more of that.
While there was much I loved about this book, there were also a few things I did not. Firstly, the dialogue: for the most part, it was fine! But there were a couple places within the book where it felt like Jacob was reading a set of prose-y lines. They did not come across as things a teen boy would say in any circumstance, and it made it feel a bit out of place. Lastly, the epilogue: I’m normally a big fan of epilogues in books, but this one was just not to my enjoyment. It felt very “here is what’s happening, here’s what we’re doing, the end” in its set-up, and I honestly feel like the story would have done better with a bit more of an ambiguous ending (whereas we know they get together, but little in the way of an epilogue).
Overall, I really enjoyed Seoulmates! I think this was a great debut from a new author, and I do look forward to reading more from Susan Lee in the future. For that, I give this book a starred rating. I do highly suggest checking this title out, as it is definitely worth the time and money.
Susan Lee has built a career as a Human Resources executive at successful startups such as Spotify and Warby Parker. Her biggest job takeaway: we are all, for the most part, ridiculous. And she channels this into her writing of light-hearted, quirky novels about the oftentimes hilarious human condition. Susan is a 2018 PitchWars alum, a 2019 & 2020 PitchWars mentor, a 2019 Romance Writers of America Golden Heart® winner, and an avid K-pop and K-drama fan. Her bias is V/Taehyung, which for those in the know, explains it all.